Thousands Join Ben & Jerry's to Demand Criminal Justice Reform, Extending Benefits of Cannabis Legalization to Communities of Color

The ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s was among those on Saturday who sought to draw attention to inequities which have become increasingly apparent since more states began loosening cannabis restrictions—a shift which critics say has mainly benefited white and upper-class Americans.

The Vermont-based company, which has been outspoken about progressive causes since it opened in 1978, circulated a petition late Friday, calling on Congress to extend the benefits of the growing destigmatization of marijuana to communities of color, who are disproportionately convicted of and incarcerated for drug-related crimes.

“Now that pot is legal in 33 states and counting,” the company wrote of April 20, a popular date in cannabis culture, “fans of cannabis can celebrate 4/20 openly and in style in more places than ever before. And even if you’re not in a state that legalized pot, there’s a still a pretty good chance that the cops won’t hassle you as you spend 4/20 doing your thing.”

“If you’re a white person,” the petition added.

Legal dispensaries that sell cannabis for recreational and health purposes are driving what is expected to be a $20 billion industry by 2020, the company wrote. But even in states where marijuana has been legalized, arrests for possession of the substance still disproportionately target black Americans.